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The debate about the amalgamation of local government units (thereafter LGUs for simplicity – in Switzerland: “communes” or “Gemeinden”) usually stems from the fact that LGUs’ political borders (the institutional territory) do no longer coincide with the economic boundaries required for an efficient provision of most local public services (the functional territory). And both do not correspond with the relational territory which arises out of the private and professional activities of LGUs’ residents as they commute daily or periodically for work, shopping and leisure (Dafflon and Ruegg, 2003: 890). Additional problems are the openness of economic activities and the emergence of industrial clusters which largely overlap local boundaries. Finally, urban areas and agglomerations usually regroup several neighbouring LGUs whereas the needs for specific public services are identical in each of them and require horizontal cooperation. The core question of this paper is how to reform the institutional and functional territories in such a way that public services are delivered efficiently, according to local preferences and in a way that responds to the needs expressed in the larger relational territory. For the local public sector, the main concern is the reorganisation in a new, coherent public institution of the three circles of deciders, beneficiaries and payers, that is: -the residents in the commune that vote the provision of a public service (admittedly, corporate business and business units have no vote), -the users whose residence or domiciliation can be in but also outside the territory of the LGU which provides the service and -the taxpayers when according to the principle of origin, taxation is attributed to the commune of residence of individuals or legal domiciliation of business companies


International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series #1204, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.

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